OXFORD, Miss. – Despite leading by six points in the second half after erasing an 11-point first-half deficit, the Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team (7-3) dropped a 72-63 decision at Ole Miss (7-2) Saturday evening inside the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum.
Middle Tennessee was led offensively by a pair of seniors in Shawn Jones and Nieko Hunter, putting up 18 points each, while senior point guard Tweety Knight handed out a career-best and game-high 10 assists. Jones registered his fourth double-double of the season, snagging a career-high 15 rebounds. His previous career-best mark was 13 boards, which he recorded most recently against FIU Dec. 29, 2012.
In the first half, Ole Miss used a 6-0 run to take a 15-9 lead with 10:36 on the clock. With a jumper from the baseline at 9:44, MT junior Jacquez Roziersnapped the Rebel run and ended a nearly six-minute scoring drought for the Blue Raiders. MT managed to shave the Ole Miss lead down to 19-17 with 7:18 left in the half, but the Rebels strung together an 11-2 spurt to push the score to 30-19 with just fourth minutes on the clock.
The Blue Raiders then went to work, battling to a seven-point deficit at the intermission as Jones closed out the opening frame with three-straight dunks. He led MT at halftime with 10 points and seven boards, going 5-for-5 from the floor and slamming home four dunks.
The Rebels opened the second half, jumping out to a 10-point advantage, but Middle Tennessee battled back. Another jam from Jones capped MT’s 8-0 run as the Raiders cut the deficit to 40-38 with 15:14 remaining. Both teams exchanged points for the next several minutes, until MT knotted things up for the fourth time at 48-48 with 10:58 to play.
A layup from Knight with 10:33 to go put Middle Tennessee in front 50-48. MT’s 8-0 run continued with two more layups from Kerry Hammonds II and Hunter, giving the Raiders their largest lead of the contest at 54-48 with 9:05 left. Hunter led the Raiders in the closing frame with 13 second-half points.
“I think (Ole Miss head coach) Andy Kennedy has a really good team and you’ve got to give them credit,” said head coach Kermit Davis. “We were up 56-50 and that 10 minute stretch was probably about as well as we’ve played all year long. We were active. We beat a good rebounding team 48-27 on the boards. Our effort was tremendous. They went to line and made their free throws and then we missed some plays at the end.”
Unfortunately for MT, timely free throws from Ole Miss and a big three-pointer from Marshall Henderson with 5:33 to go gave the Rebels a 61-60 advantage and the momentum. The Raiders then turned the ball over on the following possession and Jarvis Summers took advantage of the miscue, hitting a layup to push the Ole Miss lead to 63-60. The Raiders had a chance to tie the game on the other end of the court, but missed the three-point attempt and the Rebels snagged a huge defensive board.
Ole Miss hit free throws down the stretch and Henderson added a three to put things out of reach for MT as the Rebels went on claim the nine-point victory.
Summers led Ole Miss with a game-high 25 points, while Henderson put up 15 points to go along with a team-best five assists. LaDarius White and Aaron Jones closed out the double-figure scoring for the Rebels with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
MT won the battle of the boards 48-27 as Shawn Jones had 15 rebounds, while Hunter collected seven. Knight recorded four rebounds to go along with seven points, while Jaqawn Raymond added eight points and four boards.
Despite owning the Rebels on the boards, MT’s 14 turnovers proved to be detrimental as Ole Miss bested the Raiders 25-3 on points off of turnovers.
The Blue Raiders return to action Dec. 17, hosting Tennessee Temple for a 7 p.m. contest inside the Murphy Center.